The Shore, Sara Taylor
Published May 26th 2015 by Hogarth
Hardcover, 320 pages
Source: Blogging for Books
Welcome to The Shore: a collection of small islands sticking out from the coast of Virginia into the Atlantic Ocean. Where clumps of evergreens meet wild ponies, oyster-shell roads, tumble-down houses, unwanted pregnancies, murder, storm-making and dark magic in the marshes. . .
Situated off the coast of Virginia’s Chesapeake Bay, the group of islands known as the Shore has been home to generations of fierce and resilient women. Sanctuary to some but nightmare to others, it’s a place they’ve inhabited, fled, and returned to for hundreds of years. From a half-Shawnee Indian’s bold choice to flee an abusive home only to find herself with a man who will one day try to kill her to a brave young girl’s determination to protect her younger sister as methamphetamine ravages their family, to a lesson in summoning storm clouds to help end a drought, these women struggle against domestic violence, savage wilderness, and the corrosive effects of poverty and addiction to secure a sense of well-being for themselves and for those they love.
Together their stories form a deeply affecting legacy of two barrier island families, illuminating 150 years of their many freedoms and constraints, heartbreaks, and pleasures.
I feel like I had an advantage going into The Shore thanks to reading Shannon’s tweets about the book. I knew it was going to be a series of connected stories over generations rather than one flowing novel. However, even with that advantage I still felt knocked out after the first chapter! I really had to put it aside and regroup a day before I moved on. Taylor pulls no punches in her depictions of addiction, poverty, domestic violence or rape. Not to say that the book is all dark – but it’s definitely not a light read. There is a lot of pain in this book, and Taylor makes you feel it. But there is also hope and strength and a lot of bravery.
I absolutely loved how The Shore moved back and forth in time but still felt connected. We start modern, and then flashback, and then we’re moving in every direction. The main character of one story can be a bit character in the next which is pretty cool. The family tree at the beginning was very helpful and I flipped back to it a lot trying to determine who was related to whom and how and WHEN. I was anxious to learn about the family’s founding couple and how these people got settled on the island – but I thought the placement of their story towards the end was perfect. I liked trying to trace the characteristics through the family members as I was reading. At the first chapter break it seemed like Taylor jumped without rhyme or reason, but really it all flows once you keep going. I love my kindle, but this is a case where I’d advocate for reading the real book- the family tree is worth it. This is just a pretty hardcover – though that beautiful house on the beach is not as simple and innocent as it appears.
And then there was the final chapter set in 2143. I still am not sure how I feel about that one. I didn’t hate it but something about it simply didn’t work for me. The other future chapter set in 2037 was so perfectly eerie that I kind of didn’t want to go any further into this world. However, I am definitely planning a reread of The Shore already to see how my feelings change. Maybe it was a better ending than it seemed at first.
This was a beautiful debut! 4.5 stars!
I am really looking forward to this month’s discussion of The Shore at the Socratic Salon!
Thank you Blogging for Books for this copy in exchange for an honest review!